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Full text of "Lectures And Essays"

ON THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF MORALS      95

may be healthy or diseased. Health and
disease are very difficult things to define
accurately: but for practical purposes, there are
certain states about which no mistake can be
made. When we have even a very imperfect
catalogue and description of states that are
clearly and certainly diseases, we may form a
rough preliminary definition of health by saying
that it means the absence of all these states.
Now the health of society involves among other
things, that right is done by the individuals
composing it And certain social diseases
consist in a wrong direction of the conscience.
Hence the determination of abstract right
depends on the study of healthy and diseased
states of society. How much light can be got
for this end from the historical records we
possess ? A very great deal, if as I believe,
for ethical purposes the nature of man and of
society may be taken as approximately constant
during the few thousand years of which we
have distinct records.

The matters of fact on which rational ethic
must be founded are the laws of modification
of character, and the evidence of history as to
those kinds of character which have most aided
the improvement of the race. For although
the moral sense is intuitive. It must for the
future be directed by our conscious discovery of
the tribal purpose which it serves,